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What is the Difference Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?

Problematic veins like spider veins and varicose veins are quite common. An estimated 60% of adults have varicose veins or spider veins.

Here are all the similarities and differences between spider veins and varicose veins.

What Are Spider Veins?

Spider veins are small veins with a twisted appearance and are usually red, purple, or blue. Spider veins get their name from their appearance since they often look like a spider’s web or a tree branch.

Spider veins tend to affect the legs and face. The spider veins impact the capillaries, which are your body’s smallest blood vessels.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are more prominent than spider veins. These types of veins are raised and often swollen. Varicose veins can develop throughout the body, but they’re most commonly present on the legs.

Varicose veins usually occur due to a weakening in your blood vessel wall or from faulty valves. They have a twisted appearance and can sometimes be painful.


Some medical professionals argue that all spider veins are simply small varicose veins. The similarities between spider veins and varicose veins are:

  • Both take on a tangled, twisted appearance
  • Both can be red, purple, and/or blue

Spider veins and some varicose veins receive identical treatment. However, varicose veins tend to be more complicated to address than spider veins.


The differences between these types of problem veins are vast.

Varicose veins can grow much larger than spider veins do. Spider veins are typically flush with the skin, while varicose veins are raised and create an uneven, bumpy appearance.

Spider veins are also small and superficial, while varicose veins can be large, swollen, and set deeper in the skin.

Spider veins are harmless. If anything, they’re a cosmetic inconvenience.

While most varicose veins are harmless, they can be quite painful or indicate a serious medical issue like poor circulation.

Treating Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

Treatment for these veins varies somewhat. Sclerotherapy is an extremely successful treatment method for spider veins and small varicose veins close to the skin’s surface. 

Sclerotherapy uses saline injections to damage the problem veins and force them to collapse. Over time, they are absorbed into the body and are no longer visible through the skin.

Compression therapy is another form of treatment that can be used on its own to treat spider veins and varicose veins or in conjunction with another treatment like sclerotherapy.

More aggressive treatments may require laser treatments or surgeries for severe varicose veins.

So while spider veins can receive both non-invasive and minimally invasive treatments, some varicose veins require aggressive, invasive treatments.

Do You Have Spider Veins or Varicose Veins?

If you have small, twisted veins near the surface of your skin, you could have spider veins or varicose veins. If you’re unsure which type you have and would like more information about treatment, contact us at Metropolitan Vein and Aesthetic Center for a consultation.

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